A petroleum engineer designs, develops, and improves ways to get gas and oil deposits from below the ground’s surface. They find new avenues to retrieve gas and oil from older wells and offer their technical advice. They also oversee the installation of field equipment, maintenance, and operations.
Watch a video to learn what a petroleum engineer does.
How to Become a Petroleum Engineer
A petroleum engineer must earn a bachelor’s degree and it’s preferred to gain a degree in petroleum engineering. However, if you have a bachelor’s degree in chemical or mechanical engineering you may be considered qualified for a petroleum engineering position as well. Those still in high school should take classes in math and the sciences such as algebra, trigonometry, calculus, biology, chemistry, and physics. This is advantageous because once you begin your bachelor’s degree you will be required to takes college courses in engineering principles, geology, and thermodynamics which are heavily based on mathematical and scientific concepts.
Employers desire work experience once you graduate, therefore look for degree programs that offer internships or cooperative education programs that offer practical experience opportunities. In addition some petroleum engineers earn a licensure though not required for entry-level positions. A Professional Engineering (PE) license is often pursued later in your career. This allows you to have more leadership duties such as supervising the work of other engineers, managing projects, and providing services directly to the public.
To obtain state licensure one must complete the following:
- Degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
- Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
- Work experience, typically at least 4 years
- Professional Engineering (PE) exam
Job Description of a Petroleum Engineer
A petroleum engineer designs and/or develops plans for a gas field and oil drilling and product treatment and recovery. They supervise, design, and monitor the evaluation of new and old wells. They determine and estimate the economic value of gas and oil wells and it’s production capabilities. A petroleum engineer analyzes data in order to advise a company in the placement of wells and ways to enhance production. They evaluate producing rates and if needed plan rework processes to improve its performance. He or she would assist personnel or engineering in the solution of operating problems and interact with technical personnel, engineers or scientists to resolve issues in design, testing or research.
A petroleum engineer would coordinate the operation of field and mining equipment as well as the maintenance and installation. They require knowledge in technology and engineering, mathematics, physics and chemistry among other subjects. A petroleum engineer should be skilled in systems analysis, reading comprehension, and complex problem-solving. In this occupation, he or she would go to all relevant sources in order to obtain information needed to successfully complete a job. They have to organize and plan the work with specific goals in mind to accomplish it. A petroleum engineer spends some time in the office, but would spend much of his time on the job site.
Petroleum Engineer Career Video Transcript
Creativity is a quality more often associated with artists than engineers, but petroleum engineers need it, to develop new ways to extract oil and gas from below the Earth’s surface and make old oil wells more productive. Oil and gas deposits reside deep in rock formations, accessible only by drilling wells on land or at sea.
Petroleum engineers work with other scientists to map geological formations and determine drilling methods, design equipment, run the drilling plan, and monitor operations. These engineers analyze data to anticipate flaws or complications in a drilling plan before a project begins. They work hard to consider all potential issues, and to quickly address problems that do occur.
Most petroleum engineers work in the oil industry… though some work in related manufacturing, or manage companies in the oil industry. They generally work in offices or research laboratories, as well as at drilling sites to monitor operations— often for extended periods. Petroleum engineers work around the world and must work effectively with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Full-time hours are typical, and overtime is common. Hours are longer at drill sites. Employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering, although some accept a degree in mechanical or chemical engineering as well.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Petroleum Engineers.
National Center for O*NET Development. 17-2171.00. O*NET OnLine.
The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.